Looking ahead, position-by-position: defensive tackle

Juniors Grady 'Road Grader' Jarrett, Josh Watson, DeShawn Williams lead Tigers' most improved group of players

Josh Watson and the Clemson cheerleaders celebrate a Happy New Year with a 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game

Photo by Mark Crammer

Josh Watson and the Clemson cheerleaders celebrate a Happy New Year with a 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game

>Looking ahead, position-by-position: defensive tackle

No. 1-A question:Was the Tiger defensive front's dominating performance against LSU a sign of things to come? 1-B: Will the nation's top-rated DT prospect, Dooly County, Ga.'s Montravius Adams, be joining the crew?

The depth chart: A month of hard, good-on-good work; a month of being challenged to play more physically; and then a game in which the Tigers' interior defensive line took one of the nation's better offensive lines and re-drew the line of scrimmage. All the principle pieces of perhaps Clemson's most improved group of players will be back on the field next season, led by rising juniors Grady Jarrett (described by Dabo Swinney after the LSU game as a 'road grader'), Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams.

A pair of highly-regarded sophomores - D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins - figured into the mix throughout the fall, and one-time Oregon commitment Rod Byers got his first taste of action.

That core of players gives coach Dan Brooks a foundation for coming at opponents in waves - a defensive line two and even three deep, with no drop-off, comprised of players who, in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, erased any lingering doubts about their ability to get the job done.

Others who'll be in the mix this spring include Tra Thomas and walk-ons Collins Mauldin and Steven Young.

There's more help on the way in the person of Scott Pagano, a U.S. Army All-American who is ranked as the nation's No. 6 defensive tackle by Rivals and No. 20 at his position by ESPN.

Recruiting prospects: Montravius Adams is No. 1 on the Tigers final-month recruiting board for a reason - he's a teenager with an NFL body and all the tools to become a dominate player at the college level. Clemson has been among his favorites throughout the recruiting process, after delivering him his first college offer two summers ago. The competition is, as expected, a Who's Who of the SEC - he visited Florida last weekend, and will spend the next three weekends at Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. Auburn and Mississippi are vying for his final visit.

Targets for 2014 include Dexter Wideman (6-3, 280) of Saluda, S.C., Naquez Pringle (6-3, 275, Hemingway S.C.), Andrew Brown (6-4, 290) Chesapeake, Va., Nyquan Harris, (6-3, 285, Norfolk, Va.), Jeremy Patterson (6-4, 260, Jesup, Ga.), and Khairi Clark (6-3, 310) Hollywood, Fla.

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